What are the Seven Thunders in Revelation 10?

When the mighty angel speaks, his words are like the roar of a lion and he is answered by “the seven thunders.” The angel speaks, John hears the response from the seven thunders, but he is forbidden to write these words. Why are the words of this mighty not recorded? Possibly this means the angel’s words were unintelligible (2 Cor 12:4; Betz, TDNT 9:296).

Mighty Angel William BlakeThe “roar” of the Lord is a somewhat common motif in the Old Testament. Just prior to Moses receiving the Law at Mount Sinai, the people gather around the foot of the mountain and witness thunders (plural) and lightning as well as a “very loud trumpet blast” (Exodus 19:16). Later Rabbinic literature interpreted these thunders as the voice of God. The voice was so loud all the people of the world heard the voice, and “God’s voice split up into 70 voices acc. to the 70 languages of the earth, so that each people could hear it in its own tongue” (Betz, TDNT, 9: 288). Psalm 29:3-9 a seven-fold description of the voice of God as thunder, although the word “voice” is not there seven times. There is a rabbinic tradition that the voice of God was heard as seen thunders on Mt. Sinai (Exod. Rab. 28:6, cf. 5:9.

Since the lion of Judah appears in Revelation 5:5, perhaps a voice like thunder is drawn from the metaphor of the thunderous voice of a lion. For example, Amos 1:2 begins with the words, “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem.” Joe alludes to this text: The Lord “will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem” (3:16). The voice of God as thunder is common in other apocalyptic literature as well, “the One who thunders on high” (Sibylline Oracles 5.302). In 4 Ezra 16.10, the Lord is like a hungry lion who thunders and terrifies everyone.

Aune suggests thunder is a common “metaphor for articulate speech by supernatural beings” in both Jewish apocalyptic and Greek magical papyri (2:560). In Sibylline Oracles 5.344–345, “It will be possible to hear a heavenly crash of thunder, the voice of God throughout broad heaven above.” The “voice of the thunder” and the light of the lightning” are kept in the heavens (1 Enoch 69.23). In 2 Enoch 39.7 Enoch claims he has “heard the LORD speaking like loud thunder.” In the mystical visions of 3 Enoch, the writer “saw thunders and voices roaring in the midst of flames of fire” (3 Enoch 42.5)

In an example of a heavenly tour, Enoch is shown the secrets of the thunders:

1 Enoch 59:1-3 In those days, my eyes saw the mysteries of lightnings, and of lights, and their judgments; they flash lights for a blessing or a curse, according to the will of the Lord of the Spirits. 2 And there I (also) saw the secrets of the thunder and the secrets of (how when) it resounds in the heights of heaven its voice is heard (in) the earthly dwellings. He showed me whether the sound of the thunder is for peace and blessing or for a curse, according to the word of the Lord of the Spirits. 3 After that, all the mysteries of the lights and lightnings were shown to me (that) they glow with light for blessing and for contentment.

John prepared to write the content of the words spoken by the thunders but a “voice from heaven” prevents him. He is told to seal up the vision and not write it down. In Daniel 12:9 Daniel could not understand the angel’s explanation of his vision and he is told “the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end.” On the other hand, Enoch was permitted to write down “the rumble of the thunder and the lightning” (2 Enoch 40.9).

Keeping secrets is common in Jewish apocalyptic literature. In 1 Enoch 49, for example, Enoch is shown “all the secrets in heaven.” The reason for this, as Aune suggests is that the visionary alone knows the secrets. This makes him wise and different than the reader.  It was a mark of authenticity to hold back a little revelation from the readers, if you gave it all then perhaps there were skeptics.

What did the seven thunders say?  Bousset suggested John was given another series of plague judgments like the seals, trumpets, and bowls, and that he was told not to record this series (cited by Aune 2:5620). This is certainly possible, and if so, indicates that there will be more judgements during the tribulation happening than could expected after reading Revelation. Leviticus 26 has four seven-fold plagues as a part of the curses and blessings in Leviticus (26:18, 21, 23, and 27). This would mean there were four sets of seven judgments, one set was set aside. Caird suggested the reason John is told not to record the content of the visions is because God will cancel these judgments out of his grace and mercy (Caird, 126-127). But as Beale points out, “seal up” does not have the same sense as “cancel” (Beale 535).

9 thoughts on “What are the Seven Thunders in Revelation 10?

  1. Paul mocks the 7 thunder revelation in II Corinthians 12:1-5: John was prevented from revealing what they said, or as Paul put it, “and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful to utter.” Think about it. Pray about it. The Revealing Angel is Satan disguised as an Angel of Light (II Cor. 11:14).

    Woodrow Nichols
    antinomianuniversalism.com

    • LOL Paul was not mocking a vision that had not even taken place yet by John at Patmos. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians around 55 AD. Revelations was written around 95 AD. Paul was referring to himself in the third person as he was writing his letter to the church in Corinth.

      • Many scholars will give an early date to the Revelation, as early as 41 or 42 A.D. The 95 A.D. is not written in stone. Paul never says it was his vision, he says, “I knew a man in Christ.” Taken at face value that means somebody else. Anyway, you have been warned that it is false prophecy from Satan. God bless,

        Woodrow Nichols

  2. Maybe the words are for the last generation at a time they need them most. How about… God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…. In every ear on earth.

  3. Oh, yes, when he talking about himself Paul says things like, “For I neither received it [the Gospel] from man, neither was I taught it, but by the Revelation of Jesus Christ…to Reveal his Son in me…” (Galatians 1:12, 16a)

  4. I have written a short article on the subject: “Hope You Guess My Name: The Angel of the Book of Revelation Exposed,” found on my website: antinomianuniversalism.com

    Woodrow Nichols

  5. Best explannation so far. The promised and now open book of truth (mostly Daniel 11) helps. Since we know what the trumpet and bowl plagues are in the last tribulation, it’s best not to be here at all. Find the LORD, repent, be saved and “pray that you are considered worthy to escape these things.

  6. The 95 A.D is not universally agreed upon. The Anchor Bible edition on Revelation, written by J. Massyngberde Ford says the first edition was written in the time of the Baptist and the city on 7 hills is Jerusalem not Rome. My opinion has as much force as the copout scholars who don’t want the readers to understand that this is about the War with Rome, which didn’t come to pass as the Revealing Angel promised, and no wonder, for Satan Appears as an Angel of Light [ a Revealing Angel]. All that you are basing your opinion on is someone’s else opinion, because the reign of Domitian does not line up with the prophecies. The church is obviously in its early stage, still being ruled by Angels ;under the Law of Moses. They are in a cult war with the Hellenists, specifically Nicolaus of Antioch, one of the alleged 7 deacons who were not bound by Jewish laws dealing with food and table procedure.

    Woodrow Nichols
    antinomianuniversalism.com

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